GE Additive metal 3D printing technology transforms manufacture of hip cup removal instrument

19 September 2018

"Endocon’s ability to solve multiple challenges using additive is an impressive example of how it can have a positive impact for smaller companies targeting the orthopaedic industry."

by Sam Davies

A range of additively manufactured endoCupcut blades in varying sizes.

Metal additive manufacturing has been leveraged by Endocon to address the removal of a hip cup, a notoriously complex procedure, and do so in just three minutes. 

Typically, the procedure lasts around 30 minutes and is carried out with the use of a chisel, which risks damaging bone and tissue, which in turn can make the surface uneven and the insertion of a new implant even more difficult.

Enter the endoCupcut, which was developed with the aid of GE Additive’s Concept LaserDirect Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) technology. This device has additively manufactured blades which enable more precise cutting along the edge of the acetabular cup, and sees the loosening and extraction of cementless hip cups happen more quickly, and more safely.

The reusable instrument can boast 15 different stainless steel blades, ranging in size from 44 - 72 mm. These blades would traditionally be casted, a process which itself can see problems arise around corrosion, repeatability, and consistency. There is a rejection rate of around 30% when these blades are produced with traditional means, and a lead time as long as three and a half months.

With slight alterations to the design, and using a Concept Laser Mlab cusing 100Rmachine to additively manufacture the blades in 17-4 PH stainless steel, producing and finishing takes three weeks. Between two and six blades can be manufactured at any one time, depending on their respective shapes and sizes, on the machine's 90 x 90 mm build volume. Meanwhile, costs have also come down by around 45%.

“That means cost savings for us and in turn our customers,” noted Klaus Notarbartolo, General Manager at Endocon. “When you combine that with a reduction in product development time, higher efficiency and lower rejection rates, then the business case for additive really becomes attractive.”

The rejection rates Notarbarloto alludes to are down from 30% to under 3%. Corrosion resistance has seen a significant increase; while they used to crack at 600 N, they now show deformation after 1.8 kN of force is applied. The issues regarding hardness have also been addressed, with an improvement to 42+-2 HRC, compared to 32 HRC using casting.

Weber-KP, a service bureau in close proximity to Endocon in Heidelberg, Germany, manages all stages of the manufacturing process for the medical device company. This process includes data preparation, orientating and monitoring the build of the part, and then the post-processing, which includes surface finishing, hardening and bead blasting.

The endoCupcut device has been well received since the product’s development, and has already been deployed by a number of medical professionals across Germany. It has been such an immediate success that news filtered back to GE Additive, and the company has been captivated by Endocon’s intuitiveness and industriousness in utilising metal additive manufacturing to transform the design and manufacture of an essential tool.

“Endocon’s ability to solve multiple challenges using additive is an impressive example of how it can have a positive impact for smaller companies targeting the orthopaedic industry,” offered Stephen Zeidler, Business Development Manager, Medical at GE Additive. “What started with the need for a reduced time to market in terms of product development and flexible production of various shapes and sizes has resulted in a smart, innovative medical product that enhances patient outcomes. Moving the entire production process from casting to additive manufacturing was a logical step and that shift that continues to provide inspiration for future projects.”

The endoCupcut is among six applications vying for the 2018 TCT Healthcare Application Award at the annual TCT Awards later this month.

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